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 Sunday, September 23, 2007




Today we are flying to Paris, France, to conduct a Strategic Ad College II program. Next Sunday we travel to San Paulo, Brazil, where we will conduct a Strategic Positioning & Ad College I program. But, the news and excitement for today is focused where we are heading - in Paris.




Lance Armstrong pedaled his way down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees to claim the coveted yellow jersey, which is awarded to the winner, for the 2004 Tour de France bicycling event. He bested a field of more than 200 riders who started some 20-plus days and 2000 miles ago. This is Lance Armstrong’s sixth victory in the Tour de France. He now claims the most wins, and most consecutive victories, for this global cycling event.




But Lance Armstrong has come further than the 2000 or so miles to establish himself as one of the best bicyclists ever. Just 8-years ago Lance was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The cancer had spread to his lungs and brain. He was dropped by his sponsors and, well, left to fend for himself.




Obviously, Lance Armstrong is a winner. He beat cancer for now and, we all hope, forever more. He has also won the Tour de France. It’s a big thing to win it once but he’s done it six, consecutive, times. He is a perennial winner! We are in awe of his accomplishments.




What makes a winner: genetics? Certainly, genetics play a part in sports but there’s more to it. Can we apply what makes Lance a winner to winning in marketing? Well, other than the genetics factor (which we don’t believe weighs heavily in marketing management), we think so and we’re going to give it a try.








Here are some things we think we can learn from Lance Armstrong in becoming a perennial winner - in the field of marketing:



  1. Develop Passion for Marketing and your Brand – Lance Armstrong says he has a “passion” for the sport and a passion for the Tour de France. Perhaps, passion is not a strong enough word to describe the obsession he has with the sport and the event. Do you have a passion for your brand? Do you discuss your brand with colleagues and customers? Do you have a passion for making your brand emerge victorious in getting customers to prefer it to the competition? Are you a patron of ideas?


  1. Work toward Impact – The Tour de France is clearly the most visible and prestigious bicycling venue. Lance Armstrong calls it “the greatest bike race in the world.” He goes on to say, “It’s the one that matters the most, and the one that I love the most.” He dedicates himself and devotes his training to winning this one, big event. In fact, he turns down other races to peak for this one event. As a result of his record with the Tour de France he is considered one of the best, if not the best, cyclist of all times. Similarly, if we are to win at marketing we need to identify the key marketing mix elements and brand drivers in creating customer loyalty and devote our efforts against them. This could be anything from launching a product improvement, developing a customer affiliation program, establishing a new perceptual competitive framework to airing a new advertising campaign. Whatever it is, it has to have impact. You have to be able to point to it and say “I, and it, made a significant difference!”


  1. Develop a Winning Strategy – Lance and his team know what it takes to win. He understands the field of competitors, the equipment, terrain, the human heart and everything else that goes into winning. He and his team develop a strategy and execute against it to make other world class athletes rich in talent, such as Jan Ullrich, perennial runner-ups. A winning brand strategy touches many points among which are the brand role, brand positioning strategy statement, marketing objective and individual marketing mix elements’ objectives and strategies. It takes a lot to develop a winning strategy (e.g., thorough understanding of customer behavior, psychology and needs; marketplace dynamics; company capabilities; customer insights; etc.), stay with it and execute successfully against it.


  1. Field a Winning Team – Lance Armstrong would be the first to tell you that he couldn’t have won these victories without the support of his U.S. Postal Service teammates. He would not just be saying what he thinks others want to hear either. Instead, he would be speaking from a profound belief and appreciation for this event and the role of his teammates. His teammates’ efforts enable Lance to conserve energy as he is pulled-up mountains and over the course by drafting on them. This, and other selfless acts, gave Lance what he needed to emerge victorious after more than 20-grueling days on the bike – not just once but over six consecutive years. We should not overlook the value of our brand teammates. Seek out the best performers in R&D, MRD, promotions, the ad agency, etc., and work to make them a part of the brand team. This will require you to develop an eye for talent, appreciate that talent and create an environment that is inviting for them to join and give their best. It will also demand respect for others and the unique contributions they make to the brand. (Perhaps, the group that gets the least respect is the ad agency – which is shame.) Show your appreciation. It can be as simple as a note of thanks, a sheet-cake and ceremony, or a lunch – among others. Importantly, give credit where credit is due.


  1. Focus on Winning – This year’s Tour de France should have proven to be a more difficult contest for Lance. He’s a year older. He and his wife have recently divorced. (His current flame is Cheryl Crow, who accompanied him during the Tour.) Everyone in the field of competitors had their sights on him. His going for a sixth consecutive victory, and record, turned some “rabid” fans against him such that they spit in his face and cursed him as he bicycled down the course. (There was fear they might do more. The five time winner Eddy Merckx was struck in the ribs by a fan, which derailed him from a sixth victory.) The press, and jealous former winners, raised the ugly spectre of blood doping. And some of his original, stellar teammates went on to other teams in their quest to wrest the Tour de France yellow jersey from Lance Armstrong. Despite the flurry surrounding him Lance Armstrong was able to maintain his focus on competing in the Tour de France. Similarly, we need to stay focused on winning. There are scores of emails, telephone calls, meetings and other disruptions that we cannot allow to distract us from those key activities which will help us achieve success for the brand.


  1. Innovate – The U.S. Postal Service team looks for new ways to gain a competitive advantage. They explore different technologies for bikes, helmets and even clothing. They appreciate that a small advantage could mean a big difference in completing the race, and sitting tall in the final standings. We should innovate in our use of marketing mix elements, initiatives, etc. We cannot allow ourselves to follow blindly those ways in which things have always been done. Dare to be different, particularly if what you have done in the past has not delivered the results that you seek.


  1. Refine, Refine, Refine … - Lance Armstrong won the 2003 Tour de France by 61-seconds. Imagine racing more than 2000-miles and the margin of victory is a mere one minute and one second. Many would be content with the victory. After all, a win is a win. Isn’t it? Well, it is most certainly a win but it doesn’t necessarily portend well for the future – particularly given all the developments we cited in point #5. Unless, like Lance Armstrong, you go back and identify what you can do to improve your, and the team’s, performance. Not only did he identify what he needed to do but he committed himself, and the U.S. Postal Service team, to being a better competitor. This year his margin of victory swelled to more than 6-minutes. Even if you want things to stay the same, in this dynamic world you will have to change. Build the change off knowledge in a way that refines success to make it shine more brightly.


Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney


Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

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